Team

WebDevStudios Day in the Life of a Lead Engineer

Jeffrey de Wit

JOB TITLE: Lead Engineer

YEARS AT WEBDEVSTUDIOS: 4

Photograph of Jeffrey de Wit, Lead Engineer at WordPress design and development agency WebDevStudios.
Jeffrey de Wit, Lead Engineer

Way back in the year of 2016, four years and a decade of 2020 ago, I joined WebDevStudios (WDS) as a Frontend Developer. The reasons for doing so are very simple: I was very done with commuting two hours each way, WDS’ GIF game is on point, oh, and they also look like they know what they are doing with this WordPress thing.

After a handful of years of doing my due diligence building websites with my team for vastly different clients, I was promoted first to Senior and then to Lead Engineer. What this means for me is that I get to be super pedantic about other people’s code and get away with it, but really it’s an opportunity to help elevate the rest of the frontend engineering team, ensure their success on a given project, and ensure the success of a project at a technical level.

In a way, and maybe this is just my interpretation, my position is very similar to that of a roadie or a bass player: you may not notice when I’m there doing what I need to do, but you would definitely miss it when I’m not.

And so, it’s fair to say that no two days are really the same, and that’s okay. So with that cliché out of the way, here are some of the highlights for what a day might hold for me.

Billy Mack from Love Actually: Right. Okay. Let's Go.

Mornings: Prep For That Day

Mornings are typically spent going through the different channels of communication (like email and Slack) and checking Forecast for the schedule of the day. This way, I can identify and handle any time-sensitive issues that may have come up and line up any code reviews I will need to do to ensure that projects continue to run smoothly. For example, sometimes there will be functionality that will require other elements to be in place first before they can be worked on. In those cases, it will help the flow of the project for those required elements to be reviewed and completed as soon as possible.

Ideally, those higher priority things are dealt with before the stand-up call we do with the team at the end of every morning so that I can leap into my afternoon and hit the ground running. Those calls are a great way for me to hear what the rest of the team is up to for that day and anything that may be blocking them from completing their tasks.

Abed Nadir from Community: You never can tell what kind of day you're gonna have.

Afternoons: Support That Project Team

If there are any blockers from the team call that I can help out with, then my first priority is to do exactly that. As mentioned above, I am the great un-blocker for my team, and my afternoons are often spent talking to other engineers over Slack or on Zoom calls to help them. This could be as simple as being a sounding board for ideas or guiding them through to get to a reasonable solution, but could easily turn into a larger rubber ducking session, if the issue is some sort of exotic abomination that requires more thought to fix.

Other than those mostly unplanned instances and potential fires, there are also planned project tasks that I’m responsible for doing. At the start of a project, that means setting up the development environment and ensuring that Buddy is set up to automatically lint and deploy code from Github or providing task estimates with help of the rest of the team. During a project, that may entail finding and providing answers for client questions as they come up on project calls.

If there are any more reviews left that I couldn’t get to in the morning, I will ensure those are taken care of, as well.

Afternoons: Write That Code

Most days, playing the support role is definitely a day filler. And, especially as an introvert, being on a lot of Zoom calls on a given day is very draining for me. So, days where this is not the case and where I can focus on completing a feature or a bugfix, however small, is a bit of a blessing. It provides a way for me to unwind a little bit in the middle of a week and deal with something that is infinitely more predictable than human beings are. Especially when paired with some great music, it will do wonders for the soul; or, at least my soul, in any case. It’s kind of like that scene in Pixar’s “Soul,” but with a keyboard.

This is a GIF from the Disney and Pixar movie, Soul. The lead character is playing a black grand piano.

Evenings: Kill That Time

And then, just like that, the workday is done.

For the sake of my mental health, I’ve made an effort to disconnect work from the rest of my life as much as possible. My workspace is also in a separate room of the house and I actively switch out the screen’s input from my work computer to my gaming computer whenever I want to play some video games. The only exception here is the fact that I still have the Slack app on my phone, but I will only ever check it in the evening when I receive a notification from it. Because of the nature of this industry, emergencies do still happen from time to time and those do need to be handled. Thankfully, there are enough safeguards in place to make sure this rarely happens.

Every other week, it’s my turn to cook dinner, so I make sure to take care of that, but most nights after dinner is done an evening will look something like this:

  1. Jeopardy
    Because it is easily the best play-along at home gameshows that exists. We do watch a number of others (“Weakest Link,” for example, and more recently “The Chase” and “Name That Tune”), but none of them are really quite as good as “Jeopardy” is.
  2. Whatever TV shows we’re interested in (could be new things, could be old things we’ve not seen)
    This typically includes a number of sitcoms, but will also definitely include competition shows like “Masked Singer/Dancer” and trash TV like “90-Day Fiancé” (and as a 90-day immigrant myself, this show is absolutely hilarious to me; no shame).
  3. Bed
    I need an obnoxious amount of sleep. What can I say?

Before COVID-19, Tuesdays or Wednesdays were date nights, which we usually spend at a trivia night with our favourite trivia host at one of the nearby bowling alleys. Obviously, this has been a bit problematic this past year, but hopefully we can get back to doing this soon! And finally, on Fridays, we play D&D with our friends. This has also changed a bit with COVID-19, but is easier to manage in an online setting.

Well, there it is…

And there it is—a bit of an exposition of what a day might look like for me here at WDS. It is, by no means, as exciting as some people might like their days to be, but it’s definitely exciting enough for me. It is certainly never boring or easy, nor is it impossibly hard. I can always rely on my team and other lead engineers when things get rough, and I am doing my best to be there for them when they need my help.

Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks and Rec: I regret nothing. The end.

Are you interested in having days like Jeffrey’s at WebDevStudios? We’re hiring! Take a look at our job descriptions and apply now. Read more articles about our team here.

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